Evaluating for Continuous Improvement

The Antigonish Affordable Housing Society (AAHS) commissioned a developmental evaluation in 2022 and 2023. We are pleased to share the results. This evaluation provides a look at how our organization is functioning and progressing as we chart a path to connect affordability, environmental sustainability, and social wellbeing. It was a valuable opportunity to check in with people and emerge with an overall picture of our organization and its impacts to date, our model’s benefits and strengths, and where there is room for improvement.

The funder, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, was especially interested in learning about the influence of AAHS’s three-pronged mission that emphasizes social, environmental and financial sustainability and whether this model offers social benefits to tenants.

The Study:

The independent evaluator, Sarah Bowen (PhD), undertook 34 confidential individual interviews with tenants, current and past board members, as well Antigonish and area community and sector representatives, between December 2022 and March 2023.

Here is a snapshot of what we learned:

  • Tenants see many advantages to living at Riverside or Appleseed: the quality of housing, personal health and safety, affordability, stability, financial benefits, the experience of community, and the additional supports provided. Some tenants were able to go back to school and earn credentials, and others shared examples of tenants helping each other out when needed. However, some tenants wanted to have more say in the tenant selection process. Some also talked about the stigma they experienced living in a building identified as affordable housing.
  • The AAHS’s commitment to environmental sustainability has gained buy-in over time. Many tenants did not know about our environmental commitment before moving into their units; however, they came to see and appreciate the economic savings of heat pumps and solar panels, and noted this reduced their stress levels and improved their personal health. Similarly, some past and present board members came to appreciate the environmental focus more deeply once they also saw the economics savings.
  • There is widespread concern about the housing affordability crisis. AAHS is held in high regard by community partners as well as by current and past board members. However, as community need grows, some expressed concern about organizational sustainability given AAHS’ very high reliance on volunteers. Some interviewees suggested the organization may benefit from further discussion of the balance between building additional housing units and undertaking organizational change as well as pursuing broader education and policy influence.
  • Interviews indicated support for AAHS’ commitment to a three-pronged vision of economic, environmental and social sustainability. These aims are seen as overlapping and mutually supportive. Board members and community and sector partners made strong links between environmental actions, housing affordability, and organizational financial sustainability.

The evaluation’s insights and findings will help to guide the continued development of the AAHS. Already, we have welcomed a tenant from each complex to the board and invited a tenant onto the Tenant Selection Committee. Going forward, the AAHS intends to increase tenant and community understanding of the environmental aspects of the buildings.

Beyond the AAHS, these results will inform the development of other not-for-profit housing initiatives, and advocacy for effective housing policy and programs at various levels of government. We thank the evaluator and all participants for their time and efforts.

Read a synthesis of our evaluation process and findings including recommendations for consideration by other affordable housing providers here.

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